Manitoba, eh?!

The following excerpt is taken from an article by Martin Zeilig that appeared on page A13
of the Friday, May 21, 2010 issue of the Winnipeg Free Press.

A bow to living things

In this article, Jim Duncan, a wildlife biologist states, "It's staggering. Manitoba hosts five major life zones or biomes -- grassland, boreal coniferous forest, Arctic tundra, freshwater and Arctic marine biomes, plus aspen parkland, eastern deciduous forest and forest-tundra transitions. So, this multiplicity of habitat is home to a bewildering array of life forms that perhaps approaches a half million."

Manitoba's biodiversity also includes a whole community of microscopic organisms called ice fauna, under and in the lower levels of sea ice on Hudson Bay.

Even after decades spent studying Mother Nature, Assiniboine Park Zoo curator Dr. Robert Wrigley is astonished by the diversity of life found in this province. He points to 18,000 species of insects, including 2,500 species of beetles and 5,000 species of wasps, plus 111 different types of butterflies.

"There are a large variety of marine creatures off our Hudson Bay coastline, like 57 kinds of soft corals, anemones and jellyfish," Wrigley said. He also points to 170 kinds of snails and clams found in Manitoba, 800 species of lichens and 635 kinds of vertebrates -- including birds and mammals.

So how many species live in Manitoba?

"No one will ever be able to answer this question," responds Wrigley, who has "with all naivety and modesty attempted the impossible" and put together a biodiversity inventory of Manitoba.

The Manitoba Conservation Data Centre, listing plant and animal species and natural plant communities, is "a storehouse of information on Manitoba's biodiversity," he said.